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TEXARKANA, Texas — In a regular meeting Thursday, the Pleasant Grove Independent School District Board of Trustees approved additional instructional positions for the 2021-2022 school year and its first Summer Reading Academy for kindergarten through 11th grade.

The board approved the move to hire one core teacher per content area. This would include a second grade teacher, a fifth grade teacher, a Career and Technical Education/girls' athletics coach and two reading interventionists, in addition to moving a health science teacher from half-time to full-time.

Administration anticipates the cost of these positions to be a maximum of $575,000. CTE is expected to pay approximately $207,000 in in kind contributions to the district, bringing the grand total down to $368,000.

"As we're growing and doing some good things academically, it allows for some different ways to look at some things," Superintendent Chad Pirtle said. "We are truly building a professional learning community at the district. It does cost a little bit more, and you've got to have more people to do that."

Pirtle said these positions being filled should increase the collaboration among teachers in the main content areas.

The Summer Reading Academy is being implemented as part of a process to increase reading literacy among students and is the result of a proposed change that will expand the "at-risk" indicator to include all students reading below grade level as identified through locally administered assessment.

The district is launching the academy from June 7 to July 1 this year. Specific students will be invited to attend the four-week session to receive targeted reading instruction.

PG's goal is to hire 17 teachers for the academy who may teach half or full days. Teachers will receive two days of training prior to the first day of instruction, as well as have 1.5 hours between the morning and afternoon sessions for planning.

The academy will cost $115,000 in State Compensatory Education funds. The funds proposed to use are earmarked for students identified as "at-risk."

"This will take the students who need that additional help, and we'll be utilizing this time to catch them up," Pirtle said. "There is a price tag with it and bringing 17 teachers along, but if we're going to get there, we've got to invest in it."

In other news from the meeting, Pirtle said there are currently no COVID-19 cases or quarantines among students or staff. He also reported that the district currently has about 142 students learning remotely, which is about 6% of total students.

"We will be looking next year at remote learning and potentially putting some restrictions on that and making it more need-based," he said. "That will be a conversation down the road because we do believe that the best happens with our teachers in the classroom."

The Board also approved an engagement letter with Wilf and Henderson to perform the district's annual external audit for the 2020-2021 school year, as well as a five-year contract with Windstream Kinetic for internet service.

A request for proposals went out to vendors in January, and Windstream Kinetic had the winning bid, lowering the monthly cost to the district by half while tripling the current bandwidth speed.

Director of Finance Derick Sibley reported that for the year, revenues are around $14 million, which is about 68% of the district's budget. That is 5% more than this time last year.

Expenditures are at $11.3 million — 55% of the budget — which is about the same as last year.

Sibley said property tax collections continue to exceed expectations, at 92% collections, compared to 89% last year. They are currently collecting around $641,000 more than what he expected at this time of the year.

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